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Video: Teen buried in sand: ‘I thought I was going to die’

  1. Transcript of: Teen buried in sand: ‘I thought I was going to die’

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Back now at 7:42 with a 17-year-old who is lucky to be alive after he was trapped underground for 30 minutes in Newport Beach , California . It happened on Wednesday when the tunnel he was digging suddenly collapsed. We're going to talk with him exclusively in just a moment, but first his story. It was controlled chaos as dozens of beachgoers, lifeguards and fire and rescue personnel dug furiously to try to find Matt Mina . The 17-year-old had been digging giant tunnels in the sand with friends at Newport Beach on Wednesday afternoon when the sand suddenly collapsed, burying him alive.

    Unidentified Man: I'm going to ask everybody take five steps back.

    CURRY: Many wondered if there was any chance that Matt would be found alive.

    Mr. SKIP SNEAD: I think everybody was really concerned for him and everyone was expecting to pull a dead body , for sure. Especially after 15, 20 minutes passed and they're still digging.

    CURRY: Finally, after 30 minutes of digging, rescuers got to Matt. He was alive and the beach erupted in cheers and applause. Paramedics took him to a local hospital where he was checked out and sent home, lucky to be alive and telling people afterwards, you have no idea how heavy six feet of sand feels. And we're joined now by 17-year-old Matt Mina and Skip Snead , the man who videotaped the rescue . Good morning to both of you.

    Mr. SNEAD: Good morning.

    Mr. MATT MINA (Rescued After Being Trapped Under Sand): Good morning.

    CURRY: Well, I guess that's as good a place to start as any, Matt. What did it feel like when this -- when the walls of this tunnel suddenly collapsed?

    Mr. MINA: I was just really scared. I didn't know if anybody could hear me when I was screaming for help. But I guess my cousin did, thankfully.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Matt , were you able to get your hands in front of your face and create some kind of pocket so you -- so you could breathe? I mean, how difficult was it to breathe under all that sand?

    Mr. MINA: Actually, it's just like -- I threw my head around trying to make some room because my arms were kind of trapped behind me. So I just -- yeah, pretty much just made some wiggle room. I had a little pocket of air.

    CURRY: And could you hear, Matt , the rescue efforts going on above you? Did you know people were trying to find you?

    Mr. MINA: I had no clue. Like once you're six feet under, you can't really hear anything up top.

    LAUER: Skip , you...

    Mr. MINA: And...

    LAUER: I'm sorry, Matt.

    Mr. MINA: Sorry.

    LAUER: Skip , you didn't actually see it happen, but you came upon this scene and started to videotape this. Just describe what you witnessed and what was going on.

    Mr. SNEAD: Good morning. Yeah, I'm a parent. I have a 10-year-old son. And I was kind of frantically looking, making sure my kid wasn't the one buried in the sand. A kid died about 20-something years ago out there, a little seven-year-old. And I was pretty scared. And when I found out that it wasn't my son, I just let the camera roll and I can't believe he lived. We thought they were going to pull up a dead body . And I 'm sitting next to -- you know, a walking dead man now.

    CURRY: So Matt , describe the moment when you could feel people reaching for you. I mean, was it the first thing -- was it something you felt or something you heard to let you know that they were coming for you?

    Mr. MINA: I heard people. I was kind of fading in and out because I was kind of unconscious underneath the sand. And then I was just surprised I was actually being pulled out. Like I thought I was going to die.

    CURRY: And you saw the sun.

    Mr. MINA: That moment where you just think you're good.

    CURRY: And you saw the sun.

    Mr. MINA: Yeah. I saw the crowd of people around me. Kind of freaked me out.

    LAUER: Matt , I know you'd like to say something to the people who worked so hard to rescue you.

    Mr. MINA: Yeah. I just want to thank everybody in Newport . The fire rescue and everybody that helped me get out alive. I just want to reach out to them and say thank you.

    LAUER: Your digging days over?

    Mr. MINA: Yeah. For now. Definitely.

    LAUER: You're a lucky young man, you really are. And again, we should pass along our praise to the people at the fire rescue and all those people at the beach who helped.

    CURRY: The volunteers, everyone.

    LAUER: And Skip , thank you very much for the video. We really appreciate it.

    CURRY: Yeah. Stay safe, Matt.

    Mr. SNEAD: Yeah, I mean, it's a day to celebrate. Definitely.

    CURRY: All right, thanks so much.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/4/2011 9:35:30 AM ET 2011-08-04T13:35:30

California teen Matt Mina’s day at the beach become a life-and-death struggle when he found himself buried alive under six feet of sand. His narrow escape from suffocation was captured on dramatic video by an onlooker who documented a crew of some 40 rescuers frantically digging to rescue the trapped teen.

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The 17-year-old was an outing with pals at Newport Beach Wednesday afternoon, digging tunnels and trying to make them meet. But when Mina climbed into his hole, the surrounding sand collapsed and put him literally six feet under.

“I thought I was going to die,” Mina told Matt Lauer and Ann Curry live via satellite from Orange, Calif., Thursday. “I was just really scared. I didn’t know if anyone could hear me when I was screaming for help.”

Frantic rescuers
Thankfully, Mina’s cousin had seen what happened and alerted lifeguards. While several beachgoers started to attempt to dig the trapped teen out, using improvised tools from swimming fins to boogie boards, search-and-rescue teams poured in from three communities.

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The buzz of activity caught Skip Snead’s eye. He had dropped his 10-year-old son off at a friend’s house and was heading home when the saw fire trucks and police cars racing to the scene. Fearing that the rescuers might be looking for his own son, he followed them to the site. He had a video camera with him.

“I was frantically looking, making sure my kid wasn’t the one buried in the sand,” Snead, appearing alongside Mina on TODAY, told Curry and Lauer. “I was pretty scared, and when I found out it wasn’t my son, I just let the camera roll.”

As he did, Snead didn’t think he was going to record a happy outcome. “We thought they were going to pull up a dead body.”

TODAY
Rescuers dig frantically to reach Matt Mina, buried under 6 feet of sand for about 30 minutes.

Mina doubted his survival as well, telling Curry and Lauer he “had no clue” people were trying to dig him up, their efforts muffled by 6 feet of sand. Luckily, he could breathe during his ordeal.

“I threw my head around, trying to make some room because my arms were kind of behind me,” the teen told Curry and Lauer. “I pretty much made some wiggle room — I had a little pocket of air.”

Video: 13-year-old is buried at the beach

When rescuers finally reached him after some 30 long minutes, Mina was in a daze. “I heard people, [but] I was fading in and out; I was kind of unconscious underneath the sand,” he explained.

Snead, publisher of a surfing magazine, said that when Mina was pulled to safety, the large crowd watching the drama unfold burst into applause. The teen was rushed to the hospital, was treated, and then released, little the worse for his ordeal.

Video: Teen buried in sand: ‘I thought I was going to die’ (on this page)

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles told KTLA-TV in Los Angeles that he regarded the beach tunneling Mina and his pals were engaging in as “a very dangerous operation,” and that the teen was fortunate to have survived.

“The fact that he’s alive today — I think he has a lot to be owed to luck, and to the great efforts of the lifeguards and fire personnel that dug him out,” Boyles said.

Lauer asked Mina if his digging days were over. He cracked a somewhat embarrassed smile and replied: “Yeah, for now — definitely!”

Added Snead: “I can’t believe he lived. I’m sitting next to a walking dead man right now.”

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